No Greater Love
No Greater Love
John 15:12–15 (ESV)
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Paul Tripp Video Church is Messy
Your best friend is suddenly cool and distant. Your spouse can’t stop complaining about your bad habits. Your son refuses to talk to you. What are you supposed to do?
Relationships are messy. Relationships are hurtful. We’ve never been in a relationship that hasn’t disappointed us in some way.
God has created us for community – vertical community with God and horizontal community with each other. We shouldn’t run away from the messiness of community. We shouldn’t try to avoid imperfect people.
You have hundreds of relational interactions each day. Now you can face your relationships with strength and courage because God is up to something. He wants to change you.
Plans A, B, and C might be to shut down, lash out, or get out. But consider Plan D:
Recognize that God has the last word on those messy, conflict-ridden relationships. He can use them to make you into someone who can give and receive love—with God and others.
Impossible? Idealistic? Not really.
The great incarnate God of the universe, speaks of friendship in terms of our relationships to him.
He calls us friends, saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
John 15:12–17 focuses on the friendship and love that is to exist among the branches of the vine, among believers.
Actually, all of chapter 15 is concerned with the believer’s relationships.
Verses 1–11 have to do with the relationship between the vine and the branches, between Christ and believers,
12–17 with the relationship of branch to branch, or believer to believer,
18–27 with the relationship of the vine and the branches to the world.
The principles in John 15:12–17 apply to everyone—to those who have friends and those who feel they do not, to the aggressive, the outgoing, the shy—because these principles govern both the initiation, the reception, and the maintenance of friendship. And as friendship develops, these principles take us into deeper and deeper relationships.
Principles that Promote Friendship and Love Among the Branches
John 15:12–13 (ESV)
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Sacrifice is essential to genuine friendship and love.
Verses 12–13 are a restatement of the “new commandment” given back in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
The idea of sacrifice is found in the phrase, “as I have loved you,”
for Christ loved us so much that he gave his life for us.
The old commandment was to love God with everything in us, and our neighbor as ourselves.
The story of the good Samaritan was Christ’s great explanation of that kind of love, and it was a wonderful love.
This new commandment requires us to love as Jesus loved.
His sacrifice is our model. Jesus calls for sacrificial love in his church.
Our Lord exemplified this even before the cross.
Just before he gave this new commandment, he tried in every way to restore Judas, though he knew Judas was bent on betraying him.
He seated Judas next to him, the place of honor.
He dipped a morsel and offered it to Judas, a custom offering friendship.
Christ was offering restoration.
In John 15:12–13 our Lord officially makes sacrifice an essential characteristic of love between believers, in imitation of his love for us.
Friendship thrives on sacrifice.
There is not enough of this in God’s family. We must consciously cultivate a sacrificial spirit and must constantly work at being givers.
When Jesus says, “You are my friends,” it is evident that he is speaking to us on the human level in terms we can clearly understand.
And he is doing so—we cannot fail to see it—so that we might contrast his friendship, which is great and perfect, to even the best of the other friendships we have known.
The best known of the biblical examples is the friendship between Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and David, the young hero of Israel.
Mutuality of heart was also the basis of David and Jonathan’s relationship. First Samuel records its dramatic beginning after David killed Goliath: “After David had finished speaking to Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself” (18:1). Their souls were knit together.
Jonathan was in line for the throne. But David was so evidently blessed of God that the people were saying that he should be the next king.
Here was cause for great antagonism, antagonism between the apparent rights of the one and the supposed aspirations of the other.
But there was no antagonism. Instead there was a great and beautiful friendship. It was a case in which each sacrificed in order to put the other’s interests ahead of his own.
Sometimes the love that exists between one friend and another leads to the ultimate sacrifice, to death.
I read about a man who in a sublime moment of self-sacrifice gave his life to try to save his grandson. The two were out in a boat on the Monongahela River in West Virginia, and neither of them could swim. The child, for one reason or another, fell overboard and was drowning. So the man jumped in after the child. Both drowned. But afterward when they found the bodies, the grandfather still had the young child clutched in his arms. He had been so anxious to save his grandson that he had not even opened up his arms to attempt to swim to save himself.
When we hear a story like that we tend to become silent, for we know that we stand before something sublime. (lofty, grand) It is the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of one’s life. Because of such sacrifices we understand what the Lord is saying when he declares in clear reference to his own self-sacrifice: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The Principle of Mutuality in Friendship and Love
John 15:14–15 (ESV)
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
You know even as Christians, when we talk about something like friendship with Jesus, when we speak about something that intimate, it’s absolutely thrilling to realize that
The Son of God, who is responsible for the creation and the upholding of the Universe, is literally a personal intimate friend of those who are his own.
It’s an overwhelming thing when you really grasp that truth, and this morning I trust that you’ll see it, perhaps, in a light that you’ve never seen it before.
What does it mean to really be a friend of Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is talking to his beloved disciples, eleven of them now, because Judas is perpetrating his deed of betrayal, so he’s gone.
These are the eleven remaining disciples, the abiding branches from the analogy in the last few verses that we’ve studied. They are sad because they are awaiting the departure of Jesus, Their hearts are filled with sorrow. They know he is going to leave them.
We see that in all of these words, Jesus is comforting them.
And this beautiful concept that they are to be his personal, intimate, beloved friends has to be one of the greatest comforts of all the things that he says to them. I know how personally it affects me.
He calls his true disciples—the abiding branches, the ‘for-real’ remaining, fruit-bearing believers—friends. In the fullest sense of all that word implies, Jesus uses it in reference to his relationship to the disciples.
The message is that one who personally knows and loves Jesus Christ has a personal, intimate, love relationship with the Son of God.
And the extreme dimensions of that concept will be measured by your understanding of the extreme dimensions of the person in essence of Jesus Christ, himself.
If you see how unbelievably great and glorious Christ is, then you’ll understand what it means to have an intimate relationship with him—in all that it implies.
And so he calls us his friends.
Now, there’s a very special meaning implied in this. He says, “I’m not going to call you ‘servants anymore,” in Verse 15, “I’m going to call you friends.”
The word servant is the word dulas or dulag and it’s the word that means slave.
And what he is saying to them is, “You are no longer slaves you’re friends,” and that’s quite an elevation. That’s quite a step.
The title which means servant or slave was really not a title of shame. It was used very often in terms of people who served God.
Many people are called a servant of God. Moses was called a servant of God, and it’s certainly not a degrading term. Joshua and David, both, were called servants of God. In the New Testament, the-apostle Paul, counted it an honor, as he said in Titus 1:1, “To be a servant of God.” James said the same thing in James 1:1, “That he was excited about being a servant of God.”
But Jesus said, “I am something even greater yet, some thing even in a more intimate relationship, I want to call you friends.”
At the court of the Roman Emperor and at the courts of Eastern Kings, there was a very select group of men.
These men were kind of like what we would call the ‘kitchen cabinet’ in America, except that they were intimate men. They were not just advisors who were schooled politically; they were dear friends of the King or the Emperor. They were his protectors as well as his advisors. They were the ones who were caring for his life, and at all times, they had immediate access to the King. They could enter into his bed chamber anytime they wanted. They could be with him whenever they needed to be with him. They had to gain no entrance from anybody because they were called the friends of the King.
He talked with them before he talked with his generals. He talked with them before he talked with any other rulers of other nations or any other statesman. The friends of the King were those who had the closest possible relationship with the ruler. They had an intimate connection with him, and they had the right to enter his presence at any time.
Jesus is saying to us you don’t need any particular authority. You don’t have to pass any particular formality. You have immediate and instant access into my presence at all time—because you’re my friends.
We’re not like slaves who have no right to enter the presence of the master.
We’re not like subjects who crowd the sides of the street and watch the King pass by and hope, once in a while, we catch a glimpse of his robe flapping in the breeze.
We have a complete and total intimacy with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That’s what it means to be a friend of Jesus.
Jesus gives a clear cut condition for being his friend
“You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.” That’s the key. The key to being a friend of Jesus is obedience.
Friendship with Jesus is predicated on obedience to what he says
because that’s always the standard for every relationship.—Let me show you what I mean by that.
Jesus has repeatedly stressed our obedience to him in this Farewell Discourse, and the relationship between our obedience to and our love for him.
He is obviously determined for us to realize that obedience is the true test of Christian faith and the path on which we abide with him.
For us to speak about being Christ’s people, while we are obeying the commands of our sinful world instead of those of Christ, does us little good.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
This is not teaching salvation by works, but rather a salvation that necessarily involves obedience to our Savior and Lord, since, as branches in the vine, we have his Spirit working in us.
Jesus’ friends obey him because they share the same outlook and goals. Close friends agree in heart. They will sometimes disagree, but their hearts’ aims are the same. Paul uses a very enlightening phrase in Philippians 2:19–20.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.
Paul described Timothy as being “of kindred spirit”(nasb), literally “one-souled.” We think soul brothers is a pop term from the sixties, but actually the concept is 2,000 years old! Paul and Timothy’s friendship was a friendship of the soul.
If we really love the Lord, then we will hardly need any other guide to Christian living, since genuine love will lead us rightly, and guided by love we will not sin.
Yet we do have a clear guide for love: the Ten Commandments are God’s mandate for love, and they teach us how to love one another in tangible and specific ways. The sixth commandment not only says that we are not to murder, but necessarily implies that we are to preserve one another’s well-being. The seventh commandment tells us not to sin sexually and also to purify our minds. The eighth commandment tells us not to steal but also to provide; the ninth commandment requires us not only not to lie but also to preserve all truth and uphold our neighbor’s good name; and the tenth commandment teaches us contentment so that we will not hate our neighbor in covetous envy.
At the heart of our obedience to Christ is our treatment of other people, especially our fellow believers.
How far it is from Jesus’ brand of obedience for us to attain some man-made code of conduct while scorning or neglecting other Christians.
Loving one another requires us to bind our temper, to speak in ways that build others up, to turn from envy and contempt to respect and goodwill, and to sacrifice readily for the well-being of others.
“The weakest, the lowest, the most ignorant, the most defective disciples, are not to be despised. All are to be loved with an active, self-denying, self-sacrificing love. He that cannot do this, or will not try to do it, is disobeying the command of his Master.”
Indeed, a chronic failure to obey Jesus’ command to love presents troubling evidence about our salvation. John thus wrote in his first epistle: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The friend of Jesus loves the other friends of Jesus.
The true believer, the true Christian, has a love and by that I mean a legitimate, deep, honest, love for other believers. You say, “Yeah, but there are some exceptions.” That’s right, there are, but John’s not concerned about exceptions. He is stating the general pattern. Jesus commands us to keep on loving each other, in the progressive sense.
And a true Christian will.
A true Christian is one who has in his heart love, and I’ll tell you something, that’s the greatest thing to have. In a world that is seeking and hungry for love, we experience love.
Our hearts are full of love. That’s a part of being a believer. Romans 5:5 tells us, “The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts.”
We experience love. We bask in it. We live in it. What a tremendous privilege!!! And the true believer shares it with the other believers.
You can’t be a true believer in Jesus Christ and not have a love for other believers.
1 John 2:9–11 (ESV)
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
The true believer doesn’t hate his brother.
1 John 5:1–2 (ESV)
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
That’s how a man is saved. That’s how you become a friend of Jesus. You believe that Jesus is the Christ, receive him into your life. And then, he says, “
If you love Christ, you’ll love the Father, and if you love Christ, you’ll love the ones that belong to Him. There’s no such thing as loving God without loving Christ and there’s no such thing as loving God and Christ without loving other believers.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 (ESV)
9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
Part of being a friend of Jesus is loving others and You have to actually violate your nature in Christ not to love somebody.
You’ve got to conjure up sin to turn off the love that is there. Because it’s natural for a believer to love the other friends of Jesus.
The world doesn’t know much about it. They don’t know anything about it, really because, “It’s the love that passeth knowledge.”
Paul says in Ephesians. And, so, really
Those of us who are the friends of Jesus have a fellowship of love.
Oh there’s some kinks in it once in a while, some pretty serious wrinkles, but nevertheless, the general pattern of our lives is to love each other and when we don’t, we’re violating our new nature.
Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe (pp. 361–362). Crossway Books. Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary(pp. 1177–1178). Baker Books. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. Phillips, R. D. (2014). John (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.; 1st ed., Vol. 2, p. 306). P&R Publishing. 3 Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986), 523. 4 Ryle, John, 3:124.  Phillips, R. D. (2014). John (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.; 1st ed., Vol. 2, pp. 306–307). P&R Publishing. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You.